(Seguin) – Texas Lutheran University volleyball player Jillian Williams has been named the recipient of the 2017 Sports Imports/American Volleyball Coaches Association Courage Award.
"The Courage Award was founded to recognize a member of the volleyball community who in the face of hardship and adversity displays great courage and a determination to use their experience to better the world around them," the AVCA said in a press release.
After being diagnosed with Ewings Sarcoma (a rare cancer of the bone or soft tissue) in her freshman year at TLU, Williams completed 26 rounds of chemotherapy in 34 weeks and had rotationplasty surgery. Rotationplasty surgery involved surgeons amputating the lower portion of her left leg and reattaching her ankle and foot (with a rotation of 180 degrees) to the upper portion of her leg. The ankle and foot were rotated upon reattachment so that the ankle joint functions like a knee joint.
"When I received the call from Sports Imports, I was actually in San Antonio practicing sitting volleyball for the sitting team I am on there," said Williams, now a junior Marketing major at TLU. "I listened to my voicemail and was shocked. I called my Mom and asked if she thought it was a real thing."
"I had no clue there was this award, and it was such a blessing. God always places the perfect thing in front of us at the right time. It was mid-semester, and I was stressing; but it was such a mood release. I am so excited to watch some awesome volleyball and be with athletes I have a huge heart for. Watching them fulfill a dream reminds me to trust in His plan."
Williams will receive the Courage Award at the AVCA All-America/Players of the Year Banquet on Friday, Dec. 15, 2017 in Kansas City, Mo. The banquet will be held in conjunction with the AVCA Convention. The NCAA Division I Women's Volleyball Championship Final Four will be held Dec. 14 (semifinal matches) and Dec. 16 (championship match) in Kansas City.
A native of Odem, Texas and a graduate of Sinton High School in Sinton, Texas, Williams played for Texas Lutheran in 2015 as a true freshman. She appeared in 22 matches and made six starts. She collected 41 kills and 23 blocks.
Williams chronicled her battle with cancer in her blog: http://jilliansleapthroughcancer.com. She then started the Live N Leap Foundation (www.livenleap.org) to support "the granting of needs and dream of adolescents and young adults (AYA) with life-threatening illnesses." Live N Leap recognizes the "void in resources for this group of patients between the ages of 18 and 29."
"Although I was not able to have an exciting trip or anything at the end of treatment, I made it a goal of mine to provide other patients with that opportunity," Williams wrote on the Live N Leap Foundation website. "Many times adolescents and young adults get looked over because we are considered adults, but we are not yet at the age to support ourselves."
"I pray to fulfill needs and dreams of AYA patients that way they have an exciting 'something' to look forward to as well. We also encourage everyone to be impacted by this amazing age group and feel compelled to donate abundantly, share amazing stories of strength and courage, and LEAP through life."